Are You A Giver, A Taker, or A Matcher?

Are you a giver, a taker, or a matcher?

That was a question posed yesterday by Adam Grant on day two of the World Leaders Conference (click here for a recap of day one). Dr. Grant is the youngest full professor and top-rated teacher at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He is also the author of Give and Take, a New York Times and Wall Street Journal Best Seller.

Giver, taker, and matcher are terms he employs to identify styles of reciprocity, or how we interact with others.

  • Takers serve their own ends while carefully guarding their own expertise and time.
  • Givers enjoy helping others and do so with no strings attached.
  • Matchers live life quid pro quo (something given for something received).

Dr. Grant's research measured--among other things--performance among engineers, medical students, and sales people. He wanted to know if being a giver, a taker, or a matcher made a noticeable difference. My hurriedly scribbled notes go something like this:

Who are the best performers? Givers, Takers, or Matchers? Takers rise and fall. Matchers believe "an eye for an eye" so "they punish the heck out of the takers." Givers bring in the best results (among the tested group of engineers, medical students, and sales people). As to performance, givers may start behind, but they move ahead. They thrive in collaborative roles and while they may not win (get ahead) in the 100-yard dash, they win the marathon.

Of course, Dr. Grant's work brings to mind the words of Jesus recorded in Acts:

In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:35 ESV

"It is more blessed to give" . . . is the conclusion of Dr. Grant's research. While the outcome of the research is not surprising, it is interesting. No matter how counterintuitive giving may seem, it is the more blessed act.

So what should I do today with this "new truth-old truth"?

Grant had a wonderful suggestion. He highlighted a practice called, "The 5-Minute Favor." "Often times," he said, "we mistake giving for being Gandhi or Mother Teresa. Giving can be as simple as taking five minutes to make an introduction for someone else." Adam Rifkin has done this. In fact, Rifkin has made three introductions a day for the last twelve years. Today, he is one of the most "connected people" in the world. Rifkin finds joy and blessing by being a giver.

We don't give to be blessed, but in giving we are blessed. God tells us this. Dr. Grant's research shows us this. Now it is up to you and me to demonstrate this. It may only take five minutes -- of course it may take much longer. Givers understand this.

Today, will you be a giver or a taker?


Note: I consulted the article, "In The Company of Givers and Takers" by Adam Grant for Harvard Business Journal, April 2013.